Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album will be celebrating its 30th birthday next month on September 24th. As one of the best-selling albums of all time, its cover is unmistakable. The naked baby floating in a pool has sold over 30 million copies to date.
Well, the baby isn’t a baby anymore. Spencer Elden didn’t really have a choice to be on the cover all those years ago. Now that he is an adult, he has some strong feelings about his inclusion in the project. In fact, Elden filed a lawsuit earlier last week accusing Nirvana of using his likeness to spread child pornography. Now, Spencer Elden and his lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, must prove this accusation holds weight.
The Case Against Nirvana
Lewis and Elden’s current defense is that the album cover exposes Elden’s genitalia for profit. They argue the nudity is exploitative by itself. Moreover, they say the money on a fishing hook dangled in front of Elden’s face draws allusions to sex work.
Variety got access to the lawsuit statements. Elden’s team crafted the following: “Defendants (Nirvana) intentionally commercially marketed Spencer’s child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense. (Nirvana) used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews.”
Who Does Elden Name in the Suit?
Elden is coming after the whole team, asking for a minimum of $150,000 per member mentioned in the suit. As of now, the suit names surviving band members, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl; the executor of Kurt Cobain’s estate, Courtney Love; managers of Cobain’s estate, Guy Oseary and Heather Parry; photographer Kirk Weddle; art director Robert Fisher; and even some record companies that participated in the album’s release or dissemination as far back as 1991.
Spencer Elden is even suing past band member Chad Channing. This comes as a surprise to many because Channing was replaced by Grohl before the album in question was even recorded and before the album cover was materialized.
Over the years, Elden has been openly torn about his feelings towards the cover and band. However, he has publicly re-created the iconic cover of his own volition many times. Still, as the case unfolds, so do surprising facts. For example, it might be true that Nirvana only paid Elden’s family $200 on the day of the photoshoot, and not a penny since. Moreover, it’s looking like Elden’s parents/legal guardians never technically signed a release form for the photo either.
At the end of the day, Elden says the cover has drastically affected his life: “[When] I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
It’s hard to say what the outcome will look like right now, but we’ll have all your coverage as the case continues to unfold.